A once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform aged care is slipping through Australia’s grasp, peak industry bodies warn.
On the first anniversary of the royal commission’s damning final report which urged sweeping reforms, the Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC) said there is still so much work ahead to solve the key structural issues identified.
AACC spokesperson Sean Rooney said the commission’s recommendations would transform the sector if implemented.
“We need the Government to step up and commit to funding a pay rise for aged care staff and to put resources into recruitment and retention of staff as well as training,” he said.
“Current funding levels mean that most providers are unable to do this.”
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation said staff are frustrated by the government’s lack of action to fix the aged-care system.
On Tuesday, nurses and care-workers are taking part in protests across the country, including outside Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck’s office in Tasmania.
ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler said nothing has changed in the year since the commission delivered its final report.
“There’s still not enough staff to give residents the basic care they need,” she said.
“Nurses and care-workers will not stand by and watch those in our care suffer any longer. The message is clear: no more talking, no more ‘task forces’, no more ‘inquiries’, no more deferring responsibility – only action.”
The Federal Government said it is responding to the royal commission’s 148 recommendations over the course of a five-year plan.
Health minister Greg Hunt said more than $18.3 billion will fund change across home care, residential care, quality and safety, workforce and governance.
In the past 12 months the Government also established National Aged Care Advisory Group and the Council of Elders to help guide reforms.
Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck said a key priority in the past year has been to boost home care packages to help people stay in their own homes for longer.
He said the number of senior Australians who had access to a home care package was up 25 per cent at the end of 2021 compared to the end of 2020.
“Residential aged care providers are also receiving extra funding of $10 per resident per day to improve care and services, especially food and nutrition, and must report care staffing minutes to make sure senior Australians get appropriate care,” he said.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said aged care workers still aren’t getting the support they need.
“We need to do better and on this anniversary of the aged care royal commission we expect to see some announcements, some increase in funding, something from the government going forward,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
The AACC warned the investments announced by the Government will fall short of what the industry needs because it has been underfunded for so long.
It wants both the Government and opposition to commit to a minimum wage increase for aged care workers.
Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Paul Sadler says the Government’s response to the commission has so far avoided a pay rise for aged care workers, and has not addressed how the sector will be funded in future.
“Action on royal commission-recommended reform is critical and the opportunity for lasting, systemic change must not be kicked down the road by government or lost altogether,” he said.
“All parties need to commit to funding the outcome of the Fair Work Commission aged care work value case.
“And all parties must ensure aged care is funded properly and sustainably so we can provide high quality services.”